Sunday, January 22, 2017

PMTS Harb Ski Systems, "Building an Expert Skier!"

                                 Developing proper Counter Acting

                                             First photo: Up-side down on the slope! 
                         Watch the jacket, zipper line, relative to the ski direction and angle. 

                                                   Above the falline

              Also, look at the top of the skis, to see the angles developing off the base of support,  the "SKIS" which  increase in angle when they show the tops.


                                                  At the Apex of the turn!

 As the angles of the body and skis increase the upper body increases it's counter acting. The upper body looks like it never changes where it's facing, however the skis are making a radical arc and direction change.

                                                  Just at the point of releasing!

 The upper body and hips are increasing, their counter acting, relative to the ski direction changes.
This is what instructors, and ski systems don't understand, they just tell you, or say,  "Face down hill, well that's not it.! Counter acting is a movement that you have to create with the turning or counter acting movements of the hips and torso.

Counter acting, hip flexibility no one talks about.

To be a great skier you need incredible amount of hip flexibility. To be a very good skier and advanced skier, you need "some" hip flexibility, and counter acting, without it you will suffer. 

Watching the world cup's best skiers shows that these athletes are not only amazingly strong, thick muscled, but very flexible with the hips. More directly, they can twist their hips back away from the direction of the skis. This ability give you stronger edge hold, new turn preparation and "Super Phantom", little toe edge holding ability. 

In everyone of these photos, my skiing shows hips counter acted. And as with the best skiers in the world, you see the same hip to ski relationship. Remember many announcers and instructors get this relationship incorrect. They state it incorrectly as well, and they define it incorrectly. It's not where your hips face relative to the falline or bottom of the mountain, it's where your hips face relative to where your skis are pointed.
Here, Hirscher shows the line across the front of  his hips almost parallel with his skis.

My hips are facing my outside ski boot, not toward the tip of the skis. keep your outside pole tip behind you boots this will greatly help your development of counter acting. 

My left hip is back my pole tip pointed straight downhill chest and shoulders are facing toward my outside ski boot.

Marcel's hips again show extraordinary counter acting. 

Mikaela's hips face toward the right, her skis are pointed left. Her inside hand, pole tip and arm are forward ahead of teh inside hip.

Below, this is not counter acting, this is square, leaning and "A" framed, inside foot weighted, with no tipping. PSIA Demo Team.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Converting a flexing release to forward hips, getting over the skis.

          Gaining and regaining Fore/aft Balance

One of the most mis-understood and frankly incorrect and damaging coaching approaches that continues to exist in USSA and in Canada's version of USSA, is how to achieve re-centering. What is constantly being taught and coached is extending and moving the hips forward. Although the idea may portray what you'd like to see, but that is not what is being done, by the best world cup skiers. These two approaches don't portray what is actually happening in world class skiing. 

The release!

                                                                    The Release

Flexing and retracting the ski and boot from the snow constitutes the release.
Lifting the tip of the ski, creates the correct tension and advantages the kinetic chain with the correct muscles and tension all the way up the body for a "backward" hold or movement of the boots.

Balance change by initiating the lifting and flexing of the previous stance or outside ski is accomplished.

                                                                      Edge Change

Continuing the retraction and changing edge angles of the lifted ski constitutes the change to the new edges. The new outside ski is weighted and balance is established on the new turning ski.

                                                           Inside ski pull back

The inside foot is pulled back creating a lift of the ski tail, or a transition from a back position on the ski to a center weighted ski.

Ski Technique and random thoughts about skiing!

Comparison between Hirscher and  Kristoffersen?

This comparison would have to involve skis and boot brands. In my opinion Atomic skis are stiff and harsh, part of that issue is boot related, however the combination is tough on the racers. Rossingnols don't work well for everyone, but they sure do hit the sweat spot and are much more of a smooth carving boot and ski combination. If you pay attention to the skiers on the different products you begin to see patterns. The patterns influence of different brands of skis and boots influence ski and leg movements and the way they engage lower body angles. You can start to notice similarities between the skiers on the different brands. To do this analysis in a scientific way; I would have to be able to do a biomechanical assessment of each skier's foot and ankle. I would also measure cuff relationships and stationary balancing abilities while standing on an angled platform. It sure would produce some interesting results. We do this type of work every day at our ski shop.

Tip ski lift at the release!

I have never been anti-tip lift, I always saw, or noted that I had it in my skiing, I even wrote about it in 2007.

I started using tip lift for intermediates when I saw too much focus on just lift the back of the ski. Which accomplishes little. I began by telling students the point of lifting was to get a release, but most were not tipping after they lifted the ski. The whole idea of lifting is to get that ski to the LTE. 

So I began to tell our students to keep the ski level rather than just lifting the tail. In doing the exercise of keeping the ski level, from a stationary rehearsal,  I had them compare the difference in the actions of the leg muscles, between just lifting the tail and lifting the tip. 

It became obvious even in a stationary exercise for this comparison, that lifting the tip keeps the ski closer to the ground and it also engaged important hip and torso muscles that helped set up CA and CB, which lifting the tail did not. I began to have the group use just lifting the tip at the  release. Low and behold,  most of their extension went away, and inside ski lead was reduced. Better overall balance and transfer increased. SO I stayed with it.

Biomechanically speaking, the action helps to close the ankle, or Dorsi-flexes the foot, lifts the foot. The tibialis anterior, is the main lifting muscle used to lift the foot, which also helps to invert the foot. In turn, higher in the kinetic chain it engages the hip flexor, (tensor fascia latæ), You can also use it at Starbuck to order a special Lattee, it really confuses the hell out of  them. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My new knee by ConforMIS!

Why the ski "Tip" lift is important, for all skiing levels?!

Harald Harb: "The biggest change in the body while skiing and making turns happens during the transition from one set of edges to the other."

Why is the lifting of the tip so prevalent with expert skiers, World Cup racers? Were they taught to do it this way? In most cases no. They evolve this movement because it's more efficient, they discover it works and they keep using it. 

                                           What does lifting the tip do?

Simply, it engages a different and correct set of muscles that activates a stable hip through the release and transition. Most skiers don't recognize that there is a profound hip lateral angle change as well as a ski edge change at the transition and as the CG moves toward the new turn. The hips slide over from one side to the other in transition to align the body for the forces, coming up in the new turn. This involves setting up the proper counteracting and counterbalancing movements. 

Some will ask what are counteracting and counterbalancing movements? They are explained in my book, "The Essentials of Skiing",  books and DVDs about these topics are available on my web site;
The tip lifting movement also stops the skis from shooting forward, critical for all levels of skeris and junior racers who end up in the back seat. The movement comes from the tibialis anterior muscle on the front of the shin. And engages several other key mid-body and torso muscles that hold the upper body over the skis during the transition. This happens through the engagement of the kinetic chain.

 But "How" is this accomplished? And why is the "tip lift"  part of this important phase of skiing?


Top swiss slalom skier. Counteracting and lifting the tip.

Lifting the old stance ski has been around as long as great skiing has been around. 
In this photo you see Harald Harb's old outside or stance ski being lifted at the tip, while the tail of the ski is still on the snow.  2013 video! This video is on my Youtube site.

Marcel Hirscher best skier in the world for the last 9 years lifts the ski tip to release the stance ski.

Ozz National demo Team one of the best skiing teams in the world,  releasing the old stance ski by retraction and tip lifting.

Stefano  Gross, Italian National Team, one of the best slalom skiers in the world ski tip lifted to enter the turn.

Gross balance transfer by retraction and tip lift.

                                                    After the tip lift?

After the tip lift, the skis transition to the new edges, the next step for skiers should convert this into a tip down ski tail up or level ski relationship. This demonstrates a profound ability that only a few of the very top skiers have. This is called foot pullback in PMTS, we have been teaching and coaching this for decades. We knew early on that extending (pushing your body up) was slow and extending the hips forward was not what was happening with the top ski racers. The best skiers pull the knee up toward the chest and lifting the toes causing the tip to lift. The tip lifting starts a process and prepares everything at and above the ankles,  to engage the kinetic chain. This prepares for effective fore/aft balance properly and quickly.

Harald Harb tip lift to release in a 2013 video.

The expert skier has a releasing process with three distinct steps: bending, flexing, relaxing, and or retracting the old stance or outside ski leg, that is step one. Retracting means pull the leg up, the knee up, toward the chest. This causes weight or balance transfer to the uphill or little toe edged ski. With an expert skier, this begins the crossing of the body toward angles for the new turn. With an intermediate skier, because they generate fewer forces due to smaller or lesser angles, tipping the newly released ski (toward its little toe edge) is an important additional movement. Even in world cup skiing, the skiers are trying to tip the newly released ski onto its little toe edge, before the outside ski comes to the edge. This is accompanied by pulling and tipping that ski closer to the newly developed stance ski. This gives the skier a more focused concentrated body alignment over the outside ski as they develop the increasing drop into the arc with their body for the new turn.

If you are watching world cup skiing on TV, it is very easy to see who will be fast,  and it is not from more aggression like the commentators like to endlessly tell us. It's who is the best ski bender in the group. How do you become the best ski bender? Two ways, feet closer when developing the new angles above the gate and developing bigger angles faster. Faster angles are developed by faster retraction (flexing or bending) of the old stance leg. The faster the angles are developed the sooner the release out of the arc is accomplished. A real speed killer is pushing on the ski or extending the leg to get out of the turn. Pushing on the ski either at the end of the arc or during the arc stops the tipping movement that should be increasing tipping and angles. This is where it gets to be all about timing the point of most pressure. If your pressure comes too early you have to release and set again. or commonly known as double edge set or late edge set.

This is why it's very frustrating to listen to the TV World Cup commentary, they have it backward, the skiers are "NOT"  trying to get early pressure, they are trying to get early angles, so they can time when they get the most pressure to the exact right point in the arc.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Basic Cuff Alignment

For some reason cuff alignment has gone nuts. Years ago the basic most rudimentary understanding was put the leg in the middle of both sides of the top cuff of the boot. 

The "left"  boot would normally be considered close to what you want to begin with. The footbeds should be in the boot, to stand on. When the cuff is touching the leg or pushing against the inside of the legs also called the medial side, that is called "cuff strong" or over powered.  The problem with over powering the leg with the cuff, is it pre-loads the big toe edge or inside edge of the ski, even in a straight run. If you try this from a straight run, both skis flat, and lift one foot/boot/ or ski off the snow; the ski immediately rails or you fall to the outside. So to balance and stay in a straight run on one leg, you have to push your leg, rotate the femur, inward which looks like you are pushing the knee against the over strong cuff or in toward the other leg. In fact that is exactly what happens. This makes the ski rail. and the upper body has to compensate as a result.

Hirscher before the boot changes that are influencing his once perfect technique.

This is the first in a series I will publish, about boots and their influence on world cup skiing and individuals. In the following photos, over the last 4 years of Marcel Hirscher's skiing; they show high angles and great carving around the gate.  In everyone of these photos and many more during his previous boots era, and set ups, his boot and lower leg are lined up perpendicular to his ski. And he is able to create excellent counter balancing with his upper body, in everyone one of these photos.

If you study these photos and compare  them to the last photo in the series; I posted below, you will notice the contrast. The boot and leg and ski are no longer at right angles.

This is a very simple demonstration. I have added more recent turns from this season's races that demonstrate the exact same thing that appears in the last photo,.  I also evolve this discussion on boots, biomechanics and their effect on a world cup skier.

I demonstrate what and how over cuff strong boots, which many are, affect all racers even juniors. Many boots don't have cuff adjustments, and some that do, don't have enough adjustability.

When everything is lined up perfectly skiing looks like this.

This is about as extreme as it gets for angles, yet with this previous set up, which was correct, he didn't have problems with the release or the engagement, everything was naturally aligned and his body had no unusual contortions, it has now.

Again alignment and skeletal alignment making the forces run beautifully through his body.

When Hirscher's boots were right, he had a slight knee angulation that transmitted grip and power to the ski.

It is clear in the photo below from the last race, that the lower leg is not lined up at the same angles as in all the other photos posted above. This affects Hirscher's ability to use his best technique. This isn't happening in one turn, it's an every race and almost every  (right turn, left foot) turn phenomenon. He is losing in some races by very small margins., in spite of all his adaptive gyrations. This boot problem if corrected properly would go a long way to making that issue go away.
Hirscher is all wound up with conflicting body movements, and these are necessary to adapt to the poor boot set up. He is also making many double turns on his left foot, causing huge time losses. He recovers fortunately with his right foot turn. The two are totally different turns, from on side to the other. This is the other clue that it's a boot problem.

On the left foot turns, going right, when the courses are further off set, Hirscher is having to delay the ski angle until he can get his body in the right place to avoid an overly strong edge set and to avoid the ski from railing. This is costing him a few hundies on every turn, that adds up to many tenths in a 60 gate slalom.

Here are some other examples from other runs and races, showing his mis-alignment. He has to make many adjustments and contortions he never used to make 2 to 3 years ago with the other boot models.

When you see this, it is not knocked kneed,  boot bottom alignment, it is a cuff problem. It's a delayed release, caused from an extreme knee drive,  the resistance from the over powered position of the cuff,  causes and creates extreme knee drive and knee angulation, releasing from this situation causes this delay. Never used to see Hirscher having to contend with this before. 

The boot cuff is too strong toward the inside of the leg which causes a late release, and this extreme releasing problem shown in the photo, can result. If you read my Blog,  notice the similarity between his shin angle and that in the posts I put up about Mikaela's boot problems. Both are in Atomic boots.
Here is an example where Hirscher with his feel and genius is feathering the ski out away from his body to delay the angle and pressure. Because the wrong cuff angle,  he can't bring up the angle early, which then causes late hits and harsh edge sets. He often now, on the really round turns can't slice the arc, he double edges on most of those turns.

With his older boots, say 3 years ago, you never saw these situations happening with Hirscher, he was the example of perfect skeletal alignment to the ski edges.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mark Engel 2nd after first run of Zagreb world cup slalom.

Here is Mark training with us at Mt Hood.

Mark beat Marcel Hirscher in the first run.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mikaela Shiffrin has big turnaround in GS due to boot changes.

If you have been following my previous Blog posts below on this page; about the Shiffrin boot issues, you can see here some changes have been made that have improved the situation. With the changes which were so obviously needed she becomes functional. She is much closer to the set up of last season. Also, she is using the older cuffs on these boots. However now compare the left turn on the right foot turns, to previous posts about the alignment on this Blog. It's much better, yet it's still not ideal. It's good enough for Shiffrin to work with. Before this change she was fighting to survive. 
In this photos if you focus on the angles of her right leg you can still see she doesn't trust the boot and has to feather and skid it into place before she can trust the angles. A well trained eye can see see she is rotating her hips to help with the arc, (obvious when you watch the video in slow motion) once the ski is far enough away and the leg straight she is able to bring the ski to higher angles and come back to a hip counter action movement. As in the next photo.
A much better situation than the set up before Christmas.

What is amazing is that the whole staff, US Team, Atomic Technical staff and even her mother can't see when things are totally off. And I mean so off she could injurer herself by trying to race in these boots. After all, Hirscher broke an ankle trying to push an Atomic Boot on edge about 7 years ago.

And further on that line of thinking, Mikaela doesn't seem to feel the difference when it's wrong. She thinks she can brut force the ski to do what she wants. But the results and times prove she can not.